Tory view of women must change: MP
Friday 11th October 2013, 11:11AM BST.
Many Conservative men believe women should be left to sort out so-called women’s issues ” so men can get on with running the country”, a prominent Tory MP has said.
Bernard Jenkin warned the leadership it must focus on improving the party’s attitude to women round the clock, “not just at reshuffle time”.
Prime Minister David Cameron has come in for criticism over the lack of women he has put in the most senior roles in government, and the party and is said to be less popular with female voters.
Earlier this year Anna Soubry revealed she suspected the PM gave her the job of Public Health Minister because she is a woman and it is seen as a ”soft bloody girly option”. During the Government reshuffle earlier this week she was moved to the Ministry of Defence and given ministerial responsibility for p ersonnel, welfare and veterans.
Mr Jenkin, who chairs the Public Administration Select Committee, called on e very Tory man to “change or be left behind”.
In an article for The House magazine, he wrote: ” Many of us Tory men tend to feel that ‘women’ can deal with ‘women’s issues’, so men can get on with running the country.
“The Quad are all men. The National Security Council is overwhelmingly men. The Tory high command are all men.
“Only three out of 25 on the party board are women. Most of the advisers and policy wonks are men. And of course, most MPs will continue to be men. It is going to take a long time to change all this, so what else must we change?
“We should look at how we all behave. Generously hosting a 40-40 dinner to discuss prospects and tactics in the marginal seats, (former Tory donor) Lord Ashcroft was asked by a woman MP about declining Conservative support amongst women. ‘Shut up and sit down!’ was his response.
“He was trying to make a joke, of course, but the need to make a joke speaks volumes about the anxiety provoked by the question.”
He added: “And the Prime Minister greeted a leading high profile business women who happens to be the wife of a major donor to the party, by asking, “And where is [x - the husband]!?”
“We men are all guilty of such unconscious slights to women, but women voters see it and feel it. A business change programme would involve zero tolerance of such behaviour.
“We have perhaps yet to understand what ‘change’ in the Conservative Party really means. It is not something the leadership does, or women can do for us.
“Every man in the Conservative Party needs to change or be left behind. The leadership needs to be on this 24/7/365, not just at reshuffle time.”